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Long Cycle Theory and Concentrations/Deconcentration of Economic and Political-Military Resources

Authored by: William R. Thompson

The Ashgate Research Companion to War

Print publication date:  January  2012
Online publication date:  March  2016

Print ISBN: 9780754678267
eBook ISBN: 9781315613741
Adobe ISBN: 9781317041115


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Leadership long cycle theory first began to appear in the 1970s. Among other things that it had to offer, it seemed to fit a United States that appeared to be in relative decline in the 1970s and 1980s, and about to be overtaken economically by a Japanese challenger. A number of changes have taken place since then. The United States rebounded in the 1990s. Not only did the Japanese challenge turn out to be hollow, the United States’ principal rival, the Soviet Union, collapsed and disintegrated. For some observers, the post-Cold War United States was the world system’s new and unrivaled Colossus. Is it possible that leadership long cycle theory has been rendered obsolete by changes in the real world? Not surprisingly, my answer is no. But to explain why will require some elaboration both about how to interpret the last 20 years or so and about some of the features of leadership long cycle theory. With that foundation, it will be possible to take on the question of the continued applicability of leadership long cycle theory in the twenty-first century and some of its implications for future world politics.

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